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Recipe for Innovation: NTIA’s Role in Protecting Intellectual Property in the Digital Age

October 25, 2018 by David Redl, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator

Protecting intellectual property rights is a critical government responsibility that helps grow our economy. It is equally as important to ensure that measures intended to protect these rights aren’t misused to stifle innovation or the free flow of information.

NTIA advises the U.S. Copyright Office every three years on proposed exemptions from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA) prohibition against circumventing copyright protection technologies. These exemptions enable teachers to use short video clips in the classroom, facilitate valuable cybersecurity research, and allow consumers to repair their own vehicles without infringing on copyrights. They help balance intellectual property rights and the right to make non-infringing uses of lawfully obtained works, both of which are critical to innovation.

Today, the Librarian of Congress issued the latest set of exemptions, based on recommendations from the Copyright Office. The Copyright Office’s recommendations were thoughtful, balanced, and based on the record and the law, and NTIA is pleased with the results of the rulemaking process.

NTIA’s recommendations to the Copyright Office addressed all twelve categories of new or expanded exemptions that have been proposed during this cycle. We recommended the expansion of the repair exemption to include mobile phones and some home appliances, to encourage the market for software-enabled devices and make it easier for consumers to keep them working longer. We believe that repairing these devices, which are often a critical part of many people’s lives, is unlikely to infringe on copyrights. NTIA also strongly advocated once again for enabling more good-faith security research, which will help improve the state of cybersecurity. Our recommendations are largely reflected in the final rules.

NTIA also applauds the Copyright Office for implementing a streamlined process for requesting renewals of existing exemptions. This new option, announced last year, has dramatically reduced the burden on proponents of settled and uncontroversial exemptions, who previously had to present a full case from scratch every three years. 

For example, during the 2015 proceeding, advocates for renewing an exemption to enable the use of assistive technologies to aid the disabled in reading e-books submitted 54 pages of evidence and sent two advocates to a hearing, despite a lack of substantive opposition. In contrast, during the current rulemaking, those same proponents simply filled out a five-page form to make a sufficient case for renewal. This change increases efficiency and allows advocates and reviewers to focus on the new issues before them.

NTIA appreciates the opportunity to collaborate with the Copyright Office in this proceeding, and we look forward to continuing the important work of promoting innovation in the digital age.